Goulburn Valley League calls on community to help with player shortage

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Lacking magnets: The Goulburn Valley League, along with the majority of country leagues, is faced with a player shortage. Photo by Megan Fisher

The dust has only just settled on the opening round of the Goulburn Valley League.

Although excitement was the number one emotion for everyone involved, there was one glaring factor that has brought a sense of stress for clubs and officials over recent weeks.

A lack of players.

And despite player shortages being prevalent across all grades of football, it’s the reserves competition that has been hardest hit.

This issue is not one that the GVL faces by itself.

All leagues in Victoria are faced with dwindling player numbers after what has transpired over the past two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Player shortages was one of the main talking points at Monday night’s GVL presidents’ meeting.

Earlier this year, Benalla took to social media with a plea for players to join the Saints.

The SOS call was a shock to many, but it also reinstated the seriousness that communities face after two interrupted seasons.

Mooroopna president Bill Dowling said his club was on the look-out for more players before the start of the new campaign.

“We’re in the same boat as pretty much everyone else. We are struggling for reserves players,” he said.

“At the presidents’ meeting the other night each club detailed where they were at ... apart from one or two the general consensus was each club is struggling.

“It’s not like the players have moved away, changed clubs or anything — they just don’t want to play full stop.”

GVL operations manager Jo Spencer said a mountain of work had been completed by clubs to field sides in 2022.

“The clubs and board are doing everything they can to ensure we have games of football played,” she said.

“At this stage all 12 clubs will field a reserves side.

“Clubs have done a tremendous job already when you consider the challenges they have faced. We just encourage former players or new players to get in touch with their local clubs and help them out.

“This isn’t just an issue for us, it’s an issue that all leagues are facing.”

Spencer outlined what the league was prepared to do to ensure games of football were contested.

The GVL has already undertaken measures to drop the required number of players in reserves.

For the upcoming season, the GVL has proposed that clubs field a minimum of 16 players for reserves and that if a team has additional players available, those players would be provided to the other team to provide even playing numbers.

GVL Football Bylaw 7 - Playing numbers

(e) That in the case of a team being short of reserves, Under 18s or Under 16s players the following is to occur:

The number of players on the field is determined by the team with the least amount of players at the commencement of the game. Attrition through injury/send offs does not determine these team numbers.

1. 18 or more players = Team A - 18, Team B - 18

2. One team has 17 players = Team A - 17, Team B - 17

3. One team has 16 players = Team A - 16, Team B - 16

4. One team has 15 players = Team A - 15, Team B - 16

5. One team has 14 players = Team A - 14, Team B - 16

6. One team has 13 players = Team A – Forfeit (NB. If team numbers drop to 13 players during the course of a game, the game is to cease and is considered a forfeit

Spencer highlighted that all 12 clubs are working together to help negate player shortages in the midday game.

“At the meeting, clubs said ‘this is where we are at’ with reserve numbers,” she said.

“Clubs are communicating with each other about where they sit and they are starting those conversations early which is a great sign.

“The last thing we want is players rocking up on Saturday and then not getting a game in.

“Our bylaws allow for play to go ahead with 14 players before a forfeit is called and games can be played with 16-a-side if needed.

“We are encouraging clubs to share players as well. Everyone has got the same interest and that’s getting people to play games of footy.”

There are a range of factors that can be attributed to players deciding to hang up the boots.

Work commitments, costs and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are just some of many factors in the drop in player numbers.

But Spencer is hopeful that when the first ball is bounced, that first goal is scored and the first team song is belted out in clubrooms, former players will rekindle their love for playing.

“It really is going to be a week-by-week issue because then we start talking about COVID-19 isolation periods and then players getting injured as well,” she said.

“Hopefully once the season starts this weekend we get people who realise they miss playing and want to come back and play.”